From the time I was a very young girl, I have always been drawn to seashells.
My first real collection of shells began when my mother purchased a beautiful seashell-filled, glass lamp with a soft pink lampshade for my bedroom. That lamp grew with me. It shined light upon my dark nights for many years to come. In fact, it remained with me through young adulthood. I’m not certain if the lamp broke or if I just decided to open it, but, what I do know is that I eventually took all of the seashells out. And today, I still have them.
Seashells are huge part of my life. I craft with them. I decorate with them. They’re in my bedroom…my bathroom…my family room. I see and admire them daily. And if you give me a starfish or a sand dollar, then I am over-the-moon!
Seashells are beautiful–that’s no secret. Everyone loves them. So, I couldn’t help but wonder why they are so significant to me.
Seashells are carried throughout the vastness of the ocean by that which lives in them. In return, they offer protection and security ensuring the vitality and longevity of the life force within. At times, they are abandoned, no longer to be used as a dwelling place, cast aside for another that can more accommodate their needs. At other times, that which lives and breathes in them is preyed upon, picked away and devoured, leaving the shell empty and lifeless.
This brings me back to my original question. Why are seashells so significant to me?
The answer? Because they are me.
I am carried through this abundant space called Life by the desires, goals and inspirations that live within me…They drive me! I am a vehicle of protection for my hopes and dreams, nurturing them…feeding them…sustaining their lives…providing for their existence. During difficult times and moments when I am redefining myself, I question my ability to live up to their expectations. I become filled with doubt. I become uninspired. It is during those times they abandon me, perhaps to take up residence within someone else…someone else who may be better suited to deliver them to their collective purpose. At other times, they are taken from me, picked away by the evil pressures that exist only to defeat me, leaving me vacant and without resolve.
Maybe that’s why I have seashells around…to remind myself to always be a Vessel of Vitality, a Vehicle for Vibrancy. Perhaps, I have them around as a reminder to always fill myself up with dreams and aspirations and to always be that place where they can live and grow. Perhaps, they’re around to provide comfort when I feel abandoned, defeated and confused. This, sometimes, occurs more often than I care to admit.
I recently came across a wonderful photograph by the talented Jeffrey Scott Villafane. It’s simplistic beauty is ladled with symbolic tones. And again, I saw myself.
I wondered what this shell had been through. What life force did it once house? What conditions had it endured?
Imagine, if you will, being carried from place-to-place within the ocean…braving rough waves and seas…being tossed about until finally you’ve reach land.
Quite a tumultuous journey, to say the least.
And notice, this shell is not cracked. It is not chipped. It is not shattered into pieces of its former self.
It is whole…unblemished…patiently awaiting what life has in store.
Look closely and you will see that it is surrounded by the broken bits of shells that came before it…the ones who weren’t strong enough…the ones who gave up on their purposes…the ones who not only felt fragmented, but also became fragmented (Yes, there is a difference.).
As I gaze at this photo, I feel an absence of direction. I don’t know whether this shell is coming or going…winning or losing…failing or succeeding. I suspect it may feel the same, only somehow, I don’t think it minds.
Similarly, in this very moment, as I gaze inward, I feel confusion, uncertainty and no sense of direction. The difference is I am impatient, and I have minded.
Seeing this photo of this shell, which has managed to navigate Life’s choppy waters and emerge unscathed, gives me hope.
This shell patiently sits, surrounded by ridges of challenges–the ridges behind it are those difficulties that have been overcome–the ridges ahead are those challenges yet to be conquered. Although it sits in the wet, hard sand that will inevitably become immersed in salty foam, it knows the dry, warm sand awaits. It knows all it needs to do is trust, persevere and never give up.
Again, a shell is reminding me of what I need to do…
When the waves of distraction, confusion, self-doubt, failure and defeat swell to sizes larger than life, I need to ride them out. There will undoubtedly be moments when I am completely underwater, near drowning with no lifeline in sight. It is during those moments that must fight the hardest, hold my breath the longest, trusting that I will not only reach the surface, but also be delivered unto dry land, whole, unblemished and unscathed.
The shell has taught me to be still, to be patient, to be persistent and, above all else…